by Rep. Darrio Melton
If you’ve been following the legislature over the past few weeks, it’s pretty clear that the Republicans are stuck. They have a supermajority in both chambers–meaning they can do anything they want–yet they can’t seem to agree on how to get Alabama out of a tremendous financial crisis.
When the Republicans “stormed the State House” in 2010, they promised fiscal responsibility. They promised lower taxes and more jobs and smaller government. Then just two years later, they brought everyone in Alabama to the polls to vote on borrowing $437 million from savings to keep the state’s budget solvent. When the people allowed them to borrow the money, the deal was clear: they would repay the money within three years.
Yet the Republicans watched two more years and another election roll by without addressing the crisis at hand. Rather than tackle the elephant in the room, they chose to kick the can down the road and pretend there wasn’t a problem facing our state.
Now, the deadline is here and the Republicans can’t even agree on a plan!
Look at last week, for example. The House Republicans have a tax package that Senate Republicans have promised is dead-on-arrival. One bill in that tax package–the tax on lube oils–came through committee on Wednesday failed when it came to a vote. Thursday, the committee brought the bill up for another vote and allowed the bill to go to the House floor.
Now why are the Republicans having to strong-arm this bill through the process? For starters, it’s a 5,960 percent tax increase on lube oils–a component used in manufacturing, farm equipment and even in the motor oil in your car. This plan would increase the tax per barrel from around $3.30 to as much as $200–and that increase will be passed on to the consumer through higher produce prices and more expensive oil changes.
Whether this bill makes it through the process or not, it highlights something very important about the Republican plan: they don’t have one.
They’re trying to piecemeal a plan to cobble together the money needed to keep the government from shutting down–and they can’t agree on how to solve it.
While they all marched to the beat of the same drum during election season–“small government, pro-business, no new taxes”–and now they’re having to face the fact that leadership and tough decisions don’t fit into soundbites and talking points.
It’s easy to say what sounds good on the campaign trail, but the voters deserve better than hearing one thing in November and seeing something different in May. I think the people of this state deserve genuine leadership–people who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work, not pull the wool over our eyes and hope we don’t notice.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.